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Running Debian on a MacBook M3

15 Jun 2024 - by 'Maurits van der Schee'

In the hypothetical case that your employer is so kind to provide you with a MacBook Pro M3 (please don't buy one) you have only one question: How do I run Linux on it? First you want to install Asahi Linux, but then you find out that the M3 is not supported. Now what?

UTM Virtual Machines

You may think you need Parallels Desktop 19 or VMware Fusio Pro 13, as I also assumed. But then I ran into UTM which is open source software based on QEMU. The software does not have CPU core limits nor RAM limits and it performs very well. Also it has a great mouse capture mode that, together with full screen mode, helps me forget that I'm actually running on OSX. I like everything about it.

Download UTM

Download Linux for arm64

I have found the following great Linux arm64 images:

You can run these easily using the virtualization software.

Web development on arm64

I tried running all docker environments for PHP-CRUD-API and they all ran flawlessly without any adjustment, except for the one that relied on MS SQL Server, as it couldn't find arm64 builds for it. So if you are into PHP/MySQL web development running on arm64 is a good choice. Also, considering Hetzner has arm64 virtual machines at half the price of their amd64 counterparts.

Recommending MacBook?

I normally do not recommend to buy Apple products, but I think I can make an exception here. With it's great screen, nice keyboard and nice battery life, I can recommend a Macbook to people that have their production servers on arm64, like dual Ampere Altra 80-Core servers. I do recommend the m2 model as it has Asahi Linux support, avoiding the need for a virtual machine and as a bonus is also more affordable.

Lenovo Yoga Pro 7x

I'm looking forward to testing out the Lenovo Yoga Pro 7x, especially with native Linux on it. Lenovo Yoga Pro is a very nice product line (also on amd64) and is running with a Qualcomm Snapdragon X Elite, has a high res OLED screen and can be bought with 32GB of RAM at 1700 euro. I haven't tested it yet, as it is not generally available yet.

Qualcomm Snapdragon Dev Kit

I'm also very excited for the Quallcom Snapdragon Dev Kit that is about to be released and that I would love to run as a development machine for (web based) arm64 software. I signed up for pre-ordering one when it comes out.

Qualcomm Snapdragon Dev Kit


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